« PreviousContinue »
patience the race that is set before us." I would notice him, therefore, under the two-fold character of A deliverer to Israel, and A model to us: or, rather, instead of separating the two, I will combine them; that so the whole subject may come before us in a more luminous and useful point of view.
Let us, then, notice respecting Gideon,
I. His ready obedience to the divine call
When convinced that God had called him to fight for Israel, he delayed not to execute his commission
[The Midianites had grievously oppressed Israel. By a kind of predatory warfare, they annually desolated the whole land. Gideon was threshing out some corn, in order to hide it from the Midianites: and God sent an angel to inform him, that, through his instrumentality, the country should be delivered from its invaders. This seemed to be an hopeless and almost impossible event: but when God had shewn him, by repeated signs, that the office of delivering Israel was committed to him, he cheerfully obeyed the call, and addressed himself to the work assigned him---]
The same promptitude, Brethren, is expected at your hands
[You are called to war against the enemies of God and his people. Satan has exercised a most tyrannic sway over the whole world, "leading them captive at his will." But the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the trumpet to be sounded throughout all your coasts, that you may flock to his standard, and arm yourselves for the combat. Let none say, The enemy is too powerful for me; I cannot venture to oppose him. The command is absolute; and every one of you must gird on his armour, and prepare to war a good warfare." Let there be no reluctance, Brethren, no timidity, no "conferring with flesh and blood." It is a disgraceful bondage to which you have been subjected: and the time is come for you to free yourselves from it. I call on all of you, therefore, to obey the summons, and in every possible way to approve yourselves "good soldiers of Jesus Christ."]
But be sure to follow in this,
II. His simple dependence on divine aid
Admirably did Gideon's faith display itself on this occasion
a Heb. xi. 32, 33. and xii. 1.
b Judg. vi. 1-35.
[Most particularly is this noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "By faith Gideon and the others subdued kingdoms." There came, in obedience to his summons, two-andthirty thousand men. But God directed him to dismiss from amongst them all who were timid: and instantly was his army reduced to ten thousand men. But even these were more than God chose to employ: and therefore Gideon was ordered to bring them down to a stream, and to separate those who lapped like a dog, from those who bowed down to drink like cattle; and to reserve the former only for his companions in arms. Of those who lapped, there were only three hundred; and these were all who were left him to go against the Midianites, who amounted in all to one hundred and thirtyfive thousand men. But not even these were to be employed in one compact body: no: scarcely two of them were to be together: they were to occupy an immense tract of ground, surrounding the whole camp of Midian. Nor were they to make a simultaneous attack: but to take, every one of them, a pitcher and a lamp and a trumpet, and to break their pitchers and blow their trumpets, and to stand in their place, crying, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." What an armament, and what a disposal of the troops, according to the judgment of sense, was this! It was the direct way to have every soul amongst them slain in an instant: for not one of them could escape through darkness; since every one held his lamp, as it were, for the express purpose of making himself a mark for the spear or sword of his enemy. But Gideon presumed not to sit in judgment on the directions given him. It was sufficient for him to know what God's appointment was; and to that he submitted, without hesitation or delay.]
It is also the good fight of faith which you are now called to fight
[There must be no dependence on an arm of flesh. You must 'go forth in the strength of the Lord," and of him only. To overcome through the simple exercise of faith, may appear strange; but it is the way appointed by God himself, who will have all the honour of your success, and will suffer "
to glory in his presence." "To stand still, and see the salvation of God" with you, may appear to savour of presumption: but it is infinitely greater presumption to invade the prerogative of God, and to take on ourselves the work that belongs to him alone. The proclamation of his name, and the exhibition of his light, are doubtless proper, as his appointed means for advancing his own glory; but of themselves they can effect no more for the subjugation of our
enemies, than could the blowing of trumpets to destroy the walls of Jericho, or the breaking of pitchers to subdue the armies of Midian and of Amalek. It is "by faith you are to walk, and not by sight:" and " according to your faith it shall be done unto you."]
You must further imitate,
III. His full determination never to relax his effortsGideon, "though faint" from the excess of his exertions, " yet pursued" his enemies
[A panic having struck the Midianites, they, by mistake, slew one another, so that not less than one-hundred-and-twenty thousand of them fell that night. The remaining fifteen thousand fled. Now Gideon might well have said, The enemy is so weakened, that they cannot invade us any more: I will now, therefore, with my little band of soldiers, take my rest. But he would not on any account act thus. As long as there were any of his enemies remaining, he would pursue them. Though he was quite "faint" with fatigue, he would not cease from his exertions; but followed them, and fell upon them, and slew them, and took captive both their kings, both Zebah and Zalmunna.]
What a bright example is here for us!
[There must, of necessity, be times and seasons when we are ready to faint in our great warfare, and to wish, as it were, for some relaxation from our labour. Who has not experienced both weariness in duties, and dejection of mind, too, in the conflicts which he has had to sustain? But it must be time enough for us to rest when we get to heaven. St. Paul was "troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyede:" "for which cause he fainted not!." So must it be with us: whatever progress we have made, we must "forget the things which are behind, and press forward to that which is before." "We must never be weary in welldoing," or, if weary in it, we must never be weary of it. Whoever sees us, must see us still "pursuing," and determining never to rest, till every enemy be subdued, and "Satan himself be for ever bruised under our feet."]
Above all, we must follow him in,
IV. His assured expectation of ultimate successThis was very conspicuous
[His own countrymen, both of Succoth and Penuel, refused even to administer food to his weary soldiers, lest the
Midianites should visit it with signal judgments, after having recovered from their present panic. They even ridiculed the sanguine expectations of Gideon, saying, "Are Zebah and Zalmunna yet fallen into thy hands, that I should incense them by giving relief to thee?" But, notwithstanding the Midianites were fifty times as numerous as he, he expresses no doubt of final victory over them, and declares to his ungrateful countrymen how he will punish their ingratitude on his return from the expedition.]
Thus should we also "hold fast our confidence firm unto the end"
[Whatever victories we may have gained, our enemies would soon vanquish us, if we were left to ourselves. But we should never for a moment give way to unbelieving fears. We should neither consider our own weakness, nor the strength of our enemies; but should regard the mightiest foes merely "as bread for us;" as bread, which we shall devour, even "as the ox licketh up the grass of the field." We should "know in whom we have believed;" and "be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun the good work in us will carry it on, and perfect it until the day of Christ." However powerful our adversaries may appear, we should say to them, "Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." Has God said, "No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper?" We should go on in full anticipation of victory, and in a certain assurance, that, whatever conflicts we may have to maintain, we shall be "more than conquerors, through Him that loved us."] APPLICATION
[Are any of you faint, my beloved Brethren? I will not act the part of the men of Penuel or Succoth, but will most gladly set before you all the richest provisions which we posHere is bread of the finest quality, "the very bread that came down from heaven," that will not only strengthen and refresh your souls, but actually give life to the dead: and, if you eat to the full of that, you shall go on in the strength of it to the latest hour of your lives. Consider under whose banners you fight; even under the banners of the Lord Jesus Christ himself Consider with whom you are contending: they are vanquished enemies; as our Lord himself has told us: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" Consider where your strength lies: not in yourselves, but in the Captain of your salvation, who has said, that "his grace shall be sufficient for you," and "his strength be perfected in your weakness”- Consider, finally, what will be the fruits of victory; even glory and honour and immortality, in the presence, and in the bosom, of your God
Will you, then, draw back? God forbid! Let me rather urge you to proceed: for, faint as ye are, ye shall surely overcome. Of Gideon's army, so far as we know, there died not one; whilst the entire host of his enemies were slain. So shall all the powers of darkness fall before you, and not so much as a hair of your head shall perish. "It is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish." In a word, "Be not weary in well-doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not."]
GIDEON CHASTISES THE MEN OF SUCCOTH AND PENUEL.
Judg. viii. 15-17. And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
CONSISTENCY is essential to the character of a child of God. But pious persons are very apt to err in judging of the consistency of others: they would have been ready to condemn the conduct of Paul in relation to many things which he did at one time and forbore to do at another. We do not in general make sufficient allowance for a change of circumstances, which may not only warrant, but demand, a change of conduct. All would admire the gentleness and forbearance of Gideon, when the Ephraimites blamed him so vehemently for not summoning them to the battle against the Midianites"; but probably they would accuse him of severity and injustice towards the men of Succoth and of Penuel: whereas his firmness in chastising these was no less proper under his peculiar circumstances, than his kindness in forgiving them. The two cases were not at all parallel: the Ephraimites at least thought honourably of the cause in which Gideon was embarked; but the men of Succoth and of Penuel treated it with contempt. Now the cause was that of God himself: and for a ver. 1-3.